Dance Mogul: What is the purpose behind The Dance Gallery and what can audiences expect this year?
Astrid von Ussar: The Dance Gallery Festival was created in response to the shortage of affordable state of the art performance spaces for dance in the New York City area. For up and coming companies with limited budgets, it is difficult to find ways to be presented out of state. By partnering with the Sam Houston State University in TX and producing the festival at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in NYC, we created an opportunity for artists to do both— perform at great theaters and tour. We are presenting 26 artists in three different programs from six different US states. Also on the program are two companies who work in Italy as well as the US. The work is varied ranging from intimate to wow and the festival highlights the fresh perspectives of contemporary choreography being created throughout our nation and beyond.
Dance Mogul: How important is it for platforms to continue to grow to be able to give choreographers the opportunity to showcase their art?
Astrid von Ussar: Incredibly important! The challenges that up and coming artists face are many. By providing artists with venues, audiences and critics, choreographers are able to test themselves in a low-risk environment. We find that this setting equals edgier and more interesting work. They can concentrate on crafting the choreography instead of producing the show. It’s a winning combination for all involved.
Dance Mogul: How do you approach making the Dance Gallery better each year?
Astrid von Ussar: We now get over 200 applications every year and we attend many shows in search of the next talent we want to present. We keep adding different evenings and levels of presenting. Last year we created an Audience Choice system where the audience votes for a favorite artist to be invited back into our commissioned program, Level Up. This year we added a Workshop Series where we invited choreographer Dante Brown to create a new work on dancers who auditioned for the experience. This workshop expanded our mission by allowing us to provide more opportunities for performing artists as well as choreographers.
Dance Mogul: What have been some of the most memorable moments of the Dance Gallery?
Astrid von Ussar: Expanding into Texas comes to mind. When this happened in 2009 the mission of the festival expanded and our ability to present and support talented artists doubled. Artists who present in both locations have the great opportunity to teach and perform for an eager student body and audience in Texas and then present their work in The Big Apple in a prestigious theater space. This festival is truly a one-of-a-kind experience with many levels of engagement for the audience and participants.
Dance Mogul: Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping to contribute to the Dance Gallery?
Astrid von Ussar: I think that our partnership with Sam Houston University really makes this festival unique and special. Without their involvement and help, we would not have been able to develop as quickly as we have and operate on such an elevated level.